ATD Blog

Considerations for Managing Virtual Inclusion

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Today we find ourselves in a global change management project. Similar to the occurrences of most changes at an organization, we did not see it coming, no one liked it, and the communication was poor. For those of you, like me, who use change management principles on a daily basis to support organizational goals, know that it can be difficult yet rewarding work. Everyone from business owners to supervisors to employees were thrust into a new working environment where we are doing everything virtually, from working at home to learning, and we are all trying to make the best of it.

As I think about the changes that have happened in our personal and professional lives in such a short period of time, I believe that is the perfect opportunity to be more aware and understanding of others’ experiences and unique traits to grow as a more inclusive workforce. Here are some areas to consider:


At most offices we have been accustomed to working within the same general core business hours. At virtual offices many of us have the option to work when it best suits our personal preferences. Early birds may want to get a jump start on the day while night owls may want to work in the evening and still others may want to jump online and offline throughout the day. This is a great opportunity to increase inclusion by learning more about your workforce, seeing how their differences can be accommodated, and understanding how they help the organization (for example, think about 24-hour operations).

Learning will continue even as we are teleworking, so we should consider how we offer webinars and learning programs. It is important to consider the platform and medium being used and offer multiple choices if possible. In addition, when learning virtually through webinars or taking online courses, some learners may want to thoroughly read slides and need handouts to help them follow along or take notes, while other learners may desire more discussion or prefer to listen to a podcast that offers few visual distractions.

Something to Consider:
· Have you discussed your workforce’s preferred work schedule?
· Do your training courses accommodate different learning mediums?


Personal Abilities

Another area to consider in this new virtual environment is personal abilities. Consider technical knowledge, meaning the ability to learn and work with the new virtual tools (such as WebEx, Zoom, Dropbox, or Google Drive), that organizations are having to deploy quickly to keep work flowing. It is important to remember that not everyone is a technical genius and therefore we need to be understanding and provide support to the workforce to help them access and learn how to use these new tools.

Additionally, working and learning virtually can be affected by disabilities that require consideration when assigning work or training. During this time of teleworking and virtual learning, organizations may need to provide additional resources to support team members to ensure that they have the same accesses and ability to participate as other team members.

Something to Consider:
· Does anyone on your team need additional support with the new tools they are using?
· Are the tools and materials being used for work or training accessible for individuals with disabilities?



Something that makes this time of teleworking really unique is that everyone is quarantined together: kids, pets, family members, neighbors, entire states. When carrying on day-to-day business, we need to be aware and respectful of the fact that everyone has their own set of responsibilities while working from home. Those responsibilities can affect an employee’s work schedule. Given that we are not going to an office in a typical 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. fashion, we should consider the fact that employees may choose to work an alternative schedule to accommodate the new responsibilities (such as homeschooling) that they have taken on while working from home.

Something to Consider:
· Are your meeting or training times considering alternative schedules?
· Are you creating an expectation among your team of being available all the time?


Finally, it is important to consider individual resources for working at home. Not everyone has access to a dedicated working space, which can affect focus or determine when individuals choose to work (for example, after family members go to bed). Additionally, as we move everything online, we need to consider that not everyone has the latest and greatest in technology or internet connectivity, which could make using some tools like video conferencing difficult, if not impossible.

Something to Consider:
· Are you offering alternatives for webinars and training platforms to support individuals with varying connectivity?
· Are you aware of your employees’ home resources?

Taking the time to consider the various circumstances that individuals are working with and making adjustment to support them in this virtual working and learning environment will go a long way to increasing inclusion with your workforce.

About the Author

Dr. Joy Papini, president of CIDIS Consulting, works with organizations to assess their current culture and develop diversity and inclusion strategies and initiatives that create engaging and effective workplace environments.

Dr. Papini is an organizational psychologist with over 20 years of consulting experience supporting commercial and federal organizations. Her areas of expertise include diversity and inclusion, organizational research, people management, organizational development, and strategic planning. She holds memberships with the Society for Human Resource Management, the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, and the US Women’s Chamber of Commerce. You can connect with her on LinkedIn (JoyPapini) or contact [email protected].

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